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Recovering from trauma can look different for everyone, however, a local mental health professional is sharing a few tips to begin the process.
"What do we do when we are experiencing some of the negative impacts of trauma? Are we just stuck with the effects forever or are there practical steps that we can take to try to regain ourselves as we recover from trauma’s harmful effects? Thankfully, we know that there are certain activities and exercises that can be helpful. While there isn’t a silver bullet that magically takes away our pain there are things we can do to help ourselves."
Clinical Director of Recovery of Hope, Wayne Friesen is sharing a few tips, including the five senses technique, vergence, and relaxation breathing.
A really interesting and helpful exercise when feeling overwhelmed is from a couple of counselling models that use the eyes as a doorway to healing, specifically EMDR and something called Brainspotting. It’s called vergence and it’s incredibly simple. Hold a pen or any object between your thumb and index finger at eye level between five and 10 inches away from your face. Focus on the end of the pen for 3-5 seconds and then switch and focus on the back wall at an imaginary point that would get created as you look through the pen for 3-5 seconds."
Friesen shares that doing this back and forth a few times helps many people calm down from an immediately overwhelming situation or range of emotions.
"Breathing is a very important aspect of calming our nervous system. Trauma interrupts a healthy breathing pattern because it can get our alert stuck in the on position which dysregulates our breathing. To start, breathe in through your nose and focus on your belly as the pump, that’s critical. Inhale for four seconds, hold for three, then exhale for five, again using your belly to push the air out. Try to have the exhale longer than the inhale because that’s what a relaxed breath looks like. And the belly, or more specifically, the diaphragm is critical because that’s where relaxed breath comes from."
Some stress people encounter is from focusing on thinking about the past or the future. Bringing a person's focus back to the present can calm the nervous system.
"We can use the five senses exercise to help bring our systems into our present. Start by naming five things you can see, then four things you can touch, three things you can smell, two things you hear and one thing you taste. Take as much time as possible with each sense. When you get to one, go back up to five. It’s okay to use all the same focus items or you can choose new ones. Go back and forth as many times as it takes to feel calmer."
Friesen encourages people to continue practising these exercises and see which ones work best for each individual.
"As always, treat yourself with gentleness."